Saturday, January 10, 2009

Volunteering to help build El Salvador

A father and son were profiled today in a Wisconsin paper for their service work in El Salvador. Al and Jesse Kvitek of Mansfield joined the group Thrivent Builds Worldwide.

Further information on their mission work can be seen at the blogThrivent Builds. Our snippet of their trip comes from the Mansfield News Herald.

"Volunteering in El Salvador really grabbed my heart," said Al Kvitek. "One-third of the population of El Salvador lives in substandard housing, and by our American standards, the Salvadorans have very little. In spite of that, the people we met were so generous and so excited to live in their own home."

Father and son traveled to El Salvador Nov. 1 to 9, to start the construction of a community of homes with families in need, thanks to an alliance between Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity International. Because it's very difficult for landless Salvadoran families to own a home, Habitat for Humanity El Salvador has developed a holistic neighborhood model providing families with access to land, a house, basic services and social infrastructure such as green areas and a community center. To support this movement, Thrivent Financial committed up to $1.3 million to Habitat for Humanity El Salvador to build a model community. Eighteen months from now, there will be a new community with as many as 75 homes in Santa Ana, El Salvador, all supported by the Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity alliance and built by hundreds of Thrivent Financial member volunteers.

Al Kvitek, a Thrivent Financial associate serving Lutherans and their family members in Clark and Wood counties, and his son Jesse Kvitek, a Thrivent Financial consultant serving Lutherans and their family members in St. Croix County, and 26 other service-minded Thrivent Financial representatives kicked off the construction of this new community in November. For these representatives, whose job is to help people with their financial security, going to El Salvador to help more families buy a safe and affordable home put a whole new twist on that role. Rather than meeting with clients in the office, the American volunteers cleared a large jungle-like field of brush and trees with machetes and pick axes, an area that will soon become the foundation for many families' homes. Some of the team also assisted local Salvadoran construction masons in building a community center by leveling dirt, digging trenches, and laying block walls.

As the field was cleared and the community center was built, relationships grew with the local Salvadorans. The team enjoyed building with volunteers from a local Lutheran and a Presbyterian church, as well as with the partner families who will live in this community. "I didn't expect to find so many similarities between Americans and Salvadorans," said Jesse Kvitek, "but I realized that people are people wherever you are. They laugh the same, cry the same, have the same concerns and love for their families. The language barrier is not really a barrier at all."

This team of volunteers also had the opportunity to put down their work gloves and have some free time to attend a Lutheran church service on Sunday, go on a boat ride, tour Mayan ruins, learn how to make a favorite Salvadoran food called pupusas and spend a day on the Costa de Sol beach.

The nine-day experience in Central America invigorated both Kviteks, and both plan to share this experience with as many people as possible to encourage others to get involved in similar service work and to raise awareness of the burden of poverty housing while building decent, affordable homes worldwide.

No comments: